Refugee Paralympians encourage local children

Members of the Refugee Paralympic Team held online talks with children from their host town in Tokyo on Friday, speaking about the global issue of refugees and overcoming struggles.

Bunkyo Ward in central Tokyo has offered exchange opportunities between locals and the team's six athletes in swimming, taekwondo and other sports since before the Games opened.

Elementary school children participated in the online gathering from home.

An official from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told children that there are more than 80 million refugees worldwide who have fled their countries due to conflicts and other reasons.

The leader of the Refugee Paralympic Team, Ileana Rodriguez, talked about her experiences. She is a refugee from Cuba and competed in the 2012 London Paralympics in swimming for the United States.

She said her hardest time was when she became unable to walk and had no idea what her future would hold. She said that she overcame the pain by believing that she can still swim and survive. She added that refugee athletes face the dual hardships of fleeing their homeland and their disabilities. Rodriguez said that it is great that they can make people aware of refugees and spread messages of hope by taking part in the Paralympics.

A fourth grade student said he admires the athletes because they are striving hard toward their dreams. He vowed to practice his favorite activities, soccer and dancing, much harder.